Wounds from the Civil War were still very fresh in the hearts & minds of the Southerners in the months after the Civil War, and perhaps sensitivities were no more acute than among the residents of Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy up to the closing days of the war.
With this in mind, a new newspaper was begun in the city of Richmond during the closing day of April, 1865, the same month the capital fell to the Yankees. The newspaper was announced in the April 20 issue of the “Richmond Whig”, the announcement headed: “A New Morning Paper – The Richmond Times” and the text including: “…The paper will be under the exclusive editorial charge & control of Mr. H. Rives Pollard, late of the Richmond Examiner, and the first number will appear on Friday…will be devoted to the honor and interest of Virginia…For the present at least–until Virginia shall have emerged from the existing chaos and confusion–the Times will studiously refrain from all editorial comment & will be devoted exclusively to the news of the day. It must be obvious to every reflecting mind that the present is no time for editorial comment or stricture, and that it would only serve to fan the flame of excitement…”.
It is nice to read that there was compassion among the victorious Yankees as the occupied Richmond. There were certainly options that could only have hurt the cause of reunion, but the publisher wisely opted to consider discretion as the better part of valor.
Collectible Civil War Era Newspapers
“History is never more fascinating than when it’s read from the day it was first reported.”
Records of a Nation in Turmoil
In the 1860s, Americans’ interest in the Civil War, and its collateral effects, caused a spike in demand for news reports. These were days of heightened concern, and newspapers were one of the few resources that people were able to rely upon for war news.
Aside from specific war news, Civil War newspapers also reported on citizens’ reactions to how the war was shaping the American economy and politics, and opinions about slavery.
Reading an authentic Civil War newspaper and holding the original print paper between your fingers will transport you to the frontlines of battle, and provide a glimpse into the psyche of Civil War-era citizens, politicians, and soldiers.
Original Civil War newspapers are genuine pieces of American history a collector or anyone interested in American history must have.
Harper’s Weekly was one of the most popular newspapers during the Civil War. Although its base was in New York, its moderate stance on slavery (pre-war) was seen as a way not to upset the newspaper’s Southern readership. However, once the Civil War began, President Lincoln and the Union received Harper’s complete loyalty and support.
As the war went on, the many illustrations and prints from Thomas Nast and Winslow Homer provided a vivid visual account of the battlefields, the people, and the bloodshed—”I’m hoping next week’s edition will show scenes of the battle of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. I’ve read all about it, now I want to see it!” – A Harper’s Weekly reader in 1861. Another Harper’s reader noted, “I look forward to the end of the month and seeing just what transpired at Charleston.”
The illustrations and prints from Harper’s Weekly remain striking in both their detail and artistry. We have several noteworthy issues of Harper’s Weekly in our inventory.
Civil War People & Generals
The Southern States’ call for secession from the Union grew louder after the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. A disagreement between President Lincoln and Confederate leader Jefferson Davis over control of Fort Sumter led to overwhelming demand for war. Many men began enlisting for military service shortly after the battle of Fort Sumter.
Our vast inventory of genuine, historic Civil War newspapers highlight the efforts of military heroes from the North and the South that we have all come to know, including Ulysses S. Grant, George McClellan, Robert E. Lee, George Meade, “Stonewall” Jackson, William T. Sherman, and more.
Significant Civil War Battles & Events
Southern Illustrated News
The Southern Illustrated News was to the Confederacy what Harper’s Weekly was to the Union. Based in Richmond, Virginia, Southern Illustrated News had a rather ornate masthead and its front pages regularly featured portraits of notable Confederate figures, such as Robert E. Lee, “Stonewall” Jackson, and John S. Mosby. Southern Illustrated remains one of the most sought-after Civil War-era titles in the collecting hobby to date. Visit our Southern Illustrated Pinterest board to view several interesting portraits.
Reporting the Civil War
Before the start of the war, there were 3,725 newspapers in the United States. American newspapers accounted for one-third of all newspapers printed in the world. Most of them were weeklies. At the time, standards for what constituted sound, thorough, and responsible journalism did not exist on the eve of the war, according to Ford Risley, a Civil War journalism expert and head of the Department of Journalism at Penn State University.
Newspapers printed news dispatches, editorials, illustrations, maps, and various other tidbits, such as President Lincoln’s famous letter to Mrs. Bixley “…to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.” At times, the dispatches were entirely hearsay and wildly inaccurate, such as this series of short reports from the Daily Journal of Wilmington, NC or this report from the New York Tribune stating that Stonewall Jackson was “Dead Again.”
Reporters were a diverse group. Some had previous experience, but many reporters were lawyers, teachers, clerks, bookkeepers, and ministers. Their levels of education ranged from Ivy-league educated to only basic schooling.
Civil War reporters faced many difficulties, among them uncooperative and unreliable sources, difficulties with dispatching reports back to their newspapers, and even death. One correspondent closed a story with “Your readers must pardon a short letter. No man can write in a happy vein or style while minnie [sic] balls are flying uncomfortably close to his head.” Needless to say, conditions for Civil War reporters were not safe or ideal. More on how reporters lived and worked can be found here.
Unique Printing and Reporting Conditions
After the Union won the Battle of Memphis in June 1862, the Memphis Daily took to the road and became known as the Moving Appeal. During just a four-year period, this newspaper published in nine different cities.
A truly one-of-a-kind newspaper was “printed on board Steamer Des Moines” on blue-lined ledger paper in 1864. This issue also contains a letter written by a soldier to his wife. Letters from soldier correspondence frequently contained glorified accounts of battlefield glory meant to inspire confidence in the readers back home. Occasionally, letters from soldiers had reliable news and insights.
Much more can be said regarding newspapers from the Civil War, but for now, please enjoy the Rare Newspapers dedicated page dedicated to original and historic issues from this era:
Many are quite familiar with President Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of October, 1863. However, few have read or heard of his similar proclamation from a few month’s prior which helped build the foundation for his famous October proclamation. The Star of the West, July 25, 1863 contains the text (see images below) of this earlier declaration calling for a day of thanksgiving and prayer – words which are apropos as we prepare (in the U.S.) to celebrate Thanksgiving. Note: We’ve included the text of this famous proclamation below.
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State
Today I traveled to Springfield, Illinois, by the way of the Illinois State Journal of May 4, 1865, where I found they were preparing for the funeral of President Abraham Lincoln which was to occur later in the day. The editorial begins “We are without any more definite information in reference to the arrangements for the funeral of President Lincoln, to-day, than that contained in the programme published in another column…the procession will move at precisely ten o’clock, which will require that the remains be closed by eight…Work was recommenced on the tomb on the Mather Square yesterday…Not only the citizens of Springfield but of the whole state would be rejoiced to learn that the change referred to had been authorized…”. Within another article is “…From our midst, a little more than four years ago, President Lincoln was called to the highest office in the gift of the people. Yesterday all that is mortal of him returned to us wrapped in the habiliments of the grave…The emblems of mourning everywhere displayed…Illinois receives her murdered son again to her bosom, no less loving than when she sent him forth to the most distinguished honor. To-day we lay him reverently to rest…”
150 years ago, much of the nation was still reeling from the death of Abraham Lincoln. A mere 10 days previous time stood still and tears flowed freely at the news that the President had been killed. Did many travel to Washington, D.C. to mourn his passing? Did some visit the very site of his tragic and untimely demise to place a candle… flowers… mourn? The Philadelphia Enquirer, April 17, 1865, not on only printed a sketch of the captured John Wilkes Booth, but they also included a front-page schematic (right) of the back-alley escape route where a horse was waiting for the infamous villain and his accomplice. While the region has gone through several transformations over the course of the last 150 years, this same alley exists today. The current-day photo shown below was sent to us be a collector friend who also included the following note:
I have attached a picture of the rear of Ford’s Theater as it looks today (showing the original windows/doorways that have been bricked-up)…and I want to point out that the alleyway shown on that April 17th issue is incredibly, to this day, the only exit on the entire block and proportioned to what it was in that newspaper.
If you’ve never visited Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., it is certainly worth the trip.Note: During my days as a Middle School Teacher, can anyone guess the most common question students asked upon visiting this spot during a school trip?
As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, one is compelled by the overwhelming blessings so many of us experience on a daily basis to consider things for which we are thankful, but often overlook. One such gratitude-producing individual for me is Abraham Lincoln. Was he a perfect man? No. Have many of his flaws been white-washed from history? Yes (I’m counting on the same treatment). However, this does not negate the truth that in my eyes, he was a man for “such a time” as his was. I’ve always appreciated his writing (whether it be from his own pen or another’s makes no difference to me). One of my favorites is:
“I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me won’t matter. If the end brings me out wrong, then ten Angles swearing I was right would make no difference at all.” Abraham Lincoln
We should all have such strength of conviction in regards to our actions under fire.
A short time ago I came across a letter from him which was printed in a National Intelligencer dated January 27, 1865 that may rival the above. It is his response to a letter received from him from Eliza Gurney, the wife of a recently departed friend. The full text is viewable via the image shown below, with the transcribed text to follow.
Washington, September 4, 1864.
Eliza P. Gurney.
My esteemed friend.
I have not forgotten–probably never shall forget–the very impressive occasion when yourself and friends visited me on a Sabbath forenoon two years ago. Nor has your kind letter, written nearly a year later, ever been forgotten. In all, it has been your purpose to strengthen my reliance on God. I am much indebted to the good Christian people of the country for their constant prayers and consolations; and to no one of them, more than to yourself. The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must prevail, though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive them in advance. We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise. We shall yet acknowledge His wisdom and our own error therein. Meanwhile we must work earnestly in the best light He gives us, trusting that so working still conduces to the great ends He ordains. Surely He intends some great good to follow this mighty convulsion, which no mortal could make, and no mortal could stay.
Your people–the Friends–have had, and are having, a very great trial. On principle, and faith, opposed to both war and oppression, they can only practically oppose oppression by war. In this hard dilemma, some have chosen one horn, and some the other. For those appealing to me on conscientious grounds, I have done, and shall do, the best I could and can, in my own conscience, under my oath to the law. That you believe this I doubt not; and believing it, I shall still receive, for our country and myself, your earnest prayers to our Father in heaven.
Your sincere friend,
So, what are you thankful for?